The Best Beach Towns in Texas: Have You Visited these 9 Gulf Coast Destinations?

Danny Newman
Danny Newman is a nationally syndicated freelance writer with a focus on travel. MSN feed and Associated Press bylines. Danny is a digital nomad from the UK who’s been traveling full-time since 2018.

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Looking for a top beach town in Texas where you can live, vacation, or retire? Giddy up! Discover the best coastal destinations to visit this year.

Today, we’re going to reveal 9 of the best beach towns in Texas. Whether you visit during the summer, winter, or any other season, these incredible destinations in the Lone Star State are sure to be an ideal place to explore. Let’s dive in.

What comes to mind when you think of the Lone Star State? The friendly people and their famous Texan drawl? Incredible barbecues and seasoned smoked meats? How about cattle-ranching cowboys and country music?

We wouldn’t blame you if so! After all, those are just a few of the things for which Texas is best known. However, if you head to the southeast of this vast state, there’s another compelling Texan attraction that many people forget about:

The Texas Gulf Coast.

Stretching 350 miles from South Padre Island to the Louisiana border, this remarkable coastline is beautiful, full of wildlife, and perfect for a beach vacation. Before you book somewhere on the coast to visit, buy a second home, or spend your golden years, you’ll want to do your homework first. We’ll share our opinion about the best beach towns in Texas with nine Gulf Coast destinations that should be on your radar.

1. Galveston

Galveston’s an ideal location for any Gulf Coast getaway. A truly charming Texas town, it has history, culture, fun-filled activities, and an abundance of natural beauty. 32 miles of glorious sandy shoreline don’t hurt either! Grand Victorian-era buildings, museums, a colorful boardwalk, and a bustling downtown area add to the appeal.

With so much going on, life in Galveston is rich and diverse. But it’s best known for its beaches. You’ll find some of the best stretches of sand in all of Texas here – including the busy East Beach with its summer festivals, concerts, sandcastle competitions, and the laidback vibes of Stewart Beach.

If that isn’t enough nature for you, then don’t miss the 2,000-acre Galveston Island State Park. Complete with campgrounds, swimming spots, and hiking trails, it’s a dreamy destination for anyone who loves the outdoors (and likes to sweat in the summertime!).

2. Freeport

Drive an hour southwest of Galveston and you come to another of the best beach towns in Texas: Freeport. Located just over 60 miles from Houston and full of beach bars, hotels, and restaurants, it’s a great place for a vacation home and an even better weekend escape from the city!

Freeport’s main attractions include 2 marinas, some of the best fishing and scuba diving spots in the state, and more world-class beaches. There’s also the Freeport Historical Museum, a wetlands trail, bird observatories, and a marine sanctuary.

Furthermore, on the way there from Galveston you’ll pass Surfside beach – a fantastic Texan beach destination in its own right. In this small town with just over 4,100 residents, you’ll have a) miles of golden sand to explore and b) the outstanding Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge at your fingertips.

3. Kemah

Looking for day trips or family-friendly things to do outside Houston? Check out Kemah. Located on Galveston Bay, this once-small fishing town is now a lively tourist hotspot and sits only 30 miles or so from the city.

A cool place with a brilliant coastal location, it’s famous for the Kemah Boardwalk – a sprawling old-school entertainment complex that has rollercoasters, arcade games, and beachfront restaurants, to name but a few. Clear Lake Park’s popular too, largely thanks to its children’s play area, but also because of its first-class fishing opportunities and natural surroundings.

4. Rockport

Despite being hard-hit by Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Rockport remains a hidden gem on the Texas Gulf Coast. With world-class beaches second only to its sumptuous seafood, it’s an incredible place to enjoy some well-deserved R&R.

Specific highlights of living or enjoying a summer vacation here include:

  • The mile-long, Blue Wave-certified Rockport Beach
  • Its parks and trails (don’t miss The Big Tree and Goose Island State Park)
  • Its wide variety of wildlife and birdwatching opportunities
  • Its endless fishing, kayaking, hiking, and swimming opportunities
  • Its many excellent shops and restaurants
  • The Texas Maritime Museum
  • The 19th Century Fulton Mansion State Historical Site

Clearly, there’s no shortage of things to entice you here! With a population of around 10,500 residents, you’ll enjoy Rockport’s relaxed small-town vibes. Located approximately 3 hours from Houston and Austin, it’d also make for a great road trip.

5. Seabrook

A haven for boaters and birdwatchers alike, Seabrook’s located in Harris County and is only a short drive from Houston (35 miles). Family-friendly and full of unique activities, it’s another of the best beach towns in Texas.

From its atmospheric fish markets and antique stores to its 18 awesome parks (complete with skate parks, hiking paths, and swimming pools) and 11 miles of waterfront, you can fish, walk, and bike here until your heart’s content.

Still hunting for itinerary ideas? Why not take a boat trip from the all-popular Clear Lake Park? Or, if that doesn’t “float your boat”, you’re only a stone’s throw from the many attractions at Kemah; Galveston Island isn’t too far away either. As you can tell, there’s always something fun to keep you occupied in Seabrook!

6. Port Arthur

Drive 100 miles east of Houston and you get to the thriving coastal town of Port Arthur. Offering a fantastic blend of southern charm and Cajun flair, it’s an idyllic location that also happens to be one of the most affordable towns on this list.

For lovers of fresh seafood, serene waterways, watersports, birdwatching, and – of course – beautiful beaches, Port Arthur would make for a perfect weekend getaway and/or a great place for a second home.

If you do visit, you’ll want to check out the 5 amazing miles of natural beach at Sea Rim State Park. And don’t forget your tent! You’re allowed to camp right there on the waterfront – a prime spot that’s sure to be a highlight of your trip. The Museum of the Gulf Coast and the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site are 2 additional attractions to check out while you’re in town.

7. Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi combines the coastal appeal of a Texas beach town with the many amenities of a city. No wonder it’s one of the fastest-growing places in America!

Get ready for 9 distinct beaches, endless watersports to enjoy, and a long list of cultural activities to check out (don’t miss the Texas Surf Museum or the CC Museum of Science and History) – not to mention the countless restaurants, cafes, bars, and clubs you’d expect from a modern metropolis.

Standout beaches on this part of the Texas Gulf include:

  • JP Luby Beach for its youthful buzz and adventurous activities, including surfing and kiteboarding
  • McGee Beach on Shoreline Boulevard for its relaxed atmosphere and accessible location in the downtown area
  • North Beach for its beachfront restaurants and views over the USS Lexington (a WW2 aircraft carrier that now houses a naval aviation museum)

8. Port Aransas

Port Aransas isn’t just one of the best beach towns in Texas. It’s also one of the tiniest! With a population of around 3,100 at the time of writing, this attractive travel destination at the end of Mustang Island boasts a lovely community feel and oodles of southern charm.

Life here is certainly laidback, but there’s still lots to do. Aside from having miles of beautiful sandy beach on your doorstep, there’s the Port Aransas Museum, top-notch restaurants, and the Leonabelle Turnbull birding center to explore. You can spot dolphins frolicking out to sea as well and can always get onto the water yourself by hiring a kayak or boat.

Another perk of living/staying in Port Aransas is its proximity to Corpus Christi. Just an hour’s drive away, you’re never far from the hustle and bustle of the city – a big plus if you ever want a break from small-town living.

9. Padre Island

There’s a lot to love about Padre Island. The longest barrier island along the Texas coast, it’s located at the State’s southern tip and is split into 2 distinct regions: North Padre Island and South Padre Island. Both beach destinations more than warrant a visit, but they also boast their own unique appeal…

Visit North Padre Island for an untouched coastal wilderness. Otherwise known as Padre Island National Seashore, it’s home to peaceful beaches, endangered sea turtle species, and various watersports, such as surfing and windsurfing.

South Padre Island’s far more touristic, but equally picturesque. A relaxing place to stay (apart from in March, when spring breakers flock to town!) and a great place to retire, you’ll have access to clear waters, white sand beaches, wonderful birdlife, and more watersports than you can shake a stick at. Classy restaurants and ample shopping opportunities add to the appeal.

Relax in the Best Beach Towns in Texas

While beautiful coastal towns might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you picture Texas, the Lone Star State may surprise you with the amazing destinations on its Gulf Coast!

As we’ve seen, the best beach towns in Texas have something for everyone. Whether you want to get onto the water, spend your days fishing, get lost in nature, or stroll along pristine sandy beaches as the sun glints off emerald waters, any of the options on this list will do the trick. All that’s left to do is decide where to go first.

Of course, Texas is also a great place to retire! If you’re researching beach towns as a potential retirement destination, you might also enjoy these tips on enjoying life after retirement.

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